Photos and photoediting: our view of copyrights

By Aristo Tacoma (photographer name: Stein Reusch Weber)
This was first written in 2012 with slight improvements of style
of language early in 2013.
(connected to programs and texts, consider instead the
type of notions of protecting the wholeness of
these as laid out in our usual G15 license at

A. General optimistic view of the sharing society

It's common decency to respect the work of an artist, an author, an inventor, a programmer etc as something which is very much owned by this originator, and very much ruled over by this originator. But most originators esp. in such avenues as art and photography do have an interest in vivid public relations around their works; and so it is not strange that they appreciate a respectable element of a meaningful form of copying of some of their content by others. In some cases, an originator may have reasons to hold back such copying; but in most cases, as long as not everything is copied and copied in such full size that the copy becomes as good as the original, and with reference back to the originator, the originator benefits from the energy of this enhanced public relations around own works. In many cases, also, the works derive very obviously from just such sharing, although entirely fresh components have been added. In a sharing society, with a positive emphasis on kindness and generosity, we can contribute to each other's energy by, whenever possible, having a sensitivity relate to how much copying in each case is appropriate, and what level of exactness as to reference to origin. It is always a question of finely intuning the wave in the dimension spanned between the one extreme of never using the works of others and the other (equally senseless) extreme of exclusively and recklessly using the works of others.

B. The copyright of the photographer, and the question of rerendering

Ultimately, the universe is -- whatever worldview we might prefer at the moment -- the beholder of all events, and clearly the owner of all events. And nothing that exists, exists except by movement or flux, a movement or flux that is upheld by the universe, courtesy of the universe and that's the final view of everything. I regard that everything Karl Marx said, by and large, was said in a spirit of reckless aggression and desire for own fame (esp. his aggressiveness against spirituality, equating all of it without discernment with drugs), but metaphysically, he had a point when he implied that private property is a passing stage in humanity. The notion of patents on ideas, patents on software projects, and such, is a particularly anti-rational implementation.

Concretely, copyright is nothing but the strongest form of acknowledgement, when it is informal. This painting was made by so and so. Only the painter has the right to paint exactly like that, any other doing so is an imitator. Formal copyright can be added when there's a written contract, often for the sake of money. But artistic copyright is the true spirit of copyright and it is always to the primary originator. This is the common practise in humanity and it doesn't apply in an ultimate sense -- for the above-mentioned reason that the universe is the primary copyright-holder -- but it does apply in the sense of good manners, good society, a sense of the gentlelady and gentleman working in harmonious, reasonable and also spiritual ways.

However in many cases there are no written contract and yet several contributors to a particular thing -- e.g. a photo. A model may contribute with her background genes and training, still it is the photographer who has copyright unless something else is specified in signed written formal agreements between the parties in each case. A stylist may shape up the model, may drastically alter the idea of the setting, and in that way, raises on the ranks of acknowledgement to a place which certainly can be above the model or models in the photo, but never to the rank of the photographer, when this is a living human being with a moving camera and not merely a robotic element automatically clicking a box from a preset stage arranged by someone else. For when a camera can be moved freely about, then the contribution is practically seventy percent, about, from the photographer. The best of models look trash when they photograph themselves rashly, and careers have gone bust because of over-eager self-photographing where, without filter, this has been thrown out to the masses in hope of fame and veneration. Correspondingly, a good photographer can find what truly works well with a model and get it going. A good model is objectively good in that it is somewhat less requiring of the photographer to be selective, for there are so many more angles and perspectives and light-elements and style-elements that do work with the model, but the photographer is still the artist in this case.

When an image, a photo, with a copyright to a photographer is, in reduced form produced for, or just about for, a photo-sharing site, then it is implied that, given reasonable acknowledgement (especially in the case where the photo is not well known) -- such as the type some websites automatically provides -- some sharing of the photo is within what the copyright interpreted generously could allow, but if pressed, the copyright is still to the photographer (or to those who have a written signed agreement in the particular case as owning the photo).

When a photo is lightly edited -- e.g. a tiny part of it is erased, in one way or another, or the color tone is shifted by the simplest possible image editing program command -- then the photo is still copyright those who had the copyright before this editing. In contrast to editing, I propose that the notion of "rerender" is used when geometrically new components and various artistically demanding not-all-automatic changes are manually brought out in a coherent manner to a photo so that seventy percent of it or more is geometrically and holistically new. The rerendered photograph belongs to the rerenderer, just as someone who write a poem over a metaphor, or a metaphor inspired by a poem, owns that new poem or new metaphor. The 'owning' means: copyright for this new element in reality is this person. But it makes little sense to do a rerendering without acknowledgements, when the origins of the photo are at all known. Acknowledgements is then not giving the person or persons acknowledged any money for the product but it does offer social status and possibly fame. Just like in science, it is proper to acknowledge the idea sources of a theory from whatever source as a distribution of fame, so it is proper to acknowledge all major influences to such as a new image. In that sense, the fame of a model may grow even though copyrights held by the model may be few.

Finally, let's be aware that history as stated now is always an excerpt, and in one way or another, just about every variation of everything has many more times than once taken place. At some time it was an invention to add a mouse to a PC. But it is not an invention to take it away again (as one example).

Stein Reusch Weber (photography artist name, cfr for own works)